Sample Best Practice Policy
Maine School Management Association Sample Policy - in Word
It is the intent of the [School unit name] Board to provide all students with an equitable opportunity to learn. To that end, the Board has a significant interest in providing a safe, orderly and respectful school environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.
Bullying is detrimental to student learning and achievement. It interferes with the mission of the schools to educate their students and disrupts the operations of the schools. Bullying affects not only students who are targets but also those who participate and witness such behavior.
The Board also believes that promoting ethical and responsible behavior is an essential part of the school unit’s educational purpose. Ethics, responsible behavior and “character” are important if a student is to leave school as a “responsible and involved citizen” as described in the Guiding Principles of Maine’s system of Learning Results. Bullying interferes with the accomplishment of this goal.
Finally, the Board recognizes the well-publicized incidents of violence and threatened violence that have occurred nationally in the past several years. As research suggests a link between bullying and school violence, the Board seeks to avoid such incidents and instead take a systematic approach to bullying prevention and intervention.
It is not the Board’s intent to prohibit students from expressing their ideas, including ideas that may offend the sensibilities of others, or from engaging in civil debate. However, the Board does not condone and will take action in response to conduct that interferes with students’ opportunity to learn, the educational mission of the [School unit name] schools, and the operation of the schools.
Bullying, as defined in this policy, is not acceptable conduct in [School unit name] schools and is prohibited. Any student who engages in conduct that constitutes bullying shall be subject to disciplinary consequences up to and including suspension and expulsion. A student’s bullying behavior may also be addressed through other behavioral interventions.
For the purpose of this policy, “bullying” means any physical act or gesture or any verbally, written, or electronically communicated expression that:
- A reasonable person should expect will have the effect of:
- Physically harming a student or damaging a student’s property;
- Placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm or damage to his/her property; or
- Substantially disrupting the instructional program or the orderly operations of the school; or
- Is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, hostile educational environment for the student who is bullied.
Application of Policy
This policy applies to bullying that takes place at school or on school grounds, at any school-sponsored activity or event, or while students are being transported to or from school or school-sponsored activities or events. It also applies to bullying that occurs at any other time or place that substantially disrupts the instructional program, operations of the school, or welfare of students.
[NOTE: This is similar to language used in MSMA’s Student Code of Conduct template and is suggested for student handbooks.]
Examples of conduct that may constitute bullying include, but are not limited to:
- Physical contact or injury to another person or his/her property;
- Threats of harm to a student, to his/her possessions, or to other individuals, whether transmitted verbally, in writing, or through cyberspace;
- Blackmail, extortion, demands for protection money, or involuntary loans or donations;
- Non-verbal threats and/or intimidations such as use of aggressive or menacing gestures;
- Blocking access to school property or facilities;
- Stealing or hiding books, backpacks, or other possessions;
- Repeated or pervasive taunting, name-calling, belittling, mocking, put-downs, or demeaning humor relating to a student’s race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ancestry, religion, disability, or other personal characteristics, whether or not the student actually possesses them, that could reasonably be expected to result in disruption of the instructional program or operations of the schools, or that results in a hostile educational environment for the student.
[NOTE: Some of the actions that constitute bullying may also be addressed in other Board policies, such as ACAA—Student Harassment and Sexual Harassment or JICIA—Weapons, Violence and School Safety. Federal and/or state law and the Board’s basic nondiscrimination policy, AC, provide protection for students based on the “protected categories” listed in paragraph “H” above]
For the purpose of this policy, bullying does not mean mere teasing, put-downs, “talking trash,” trading of insults, or similar interactions among friends, nor does it include expression of ideas or beliefs so long as such expression is not lewd, profane, or does not interfere with students’ opportunity to learn, the instructional program, or the operations of the schools. This does not preclude teachers or school administrators from setting and enforcing rules for civility, courtesy, and/or responsible behavior in the classroom and the school environment.
The determination whether particular conduct constitutes bullying requires reasonable consideration of the circumstances, which include the frequency of the behavior at issue, the location in which the behavior occurs, the ages and maturity of the students involved, the activity or context in which the conduct occurs, and the nature and severity of the conduct.
Delegation of Responsibility
The Superintendent/designee will be responsible for developing and implementing procedures for:
- Student and parent reporting of bullying to staff and school administrators;
- Staff reporting of bullying to school administrators;
- Review of reports and investigation of bullying incidents;
- Intervention with and/or discipline of students who engage in bullying;
- Support for students who are victims of bullying;
- Training staff and students in bullying prevention; and
- Periodic evaluation of bullying prevention, intervention, and training efforts in [School unit name] schools and reporting to the Board upon request.
Students who have been bullied or who observe incidents of bullying are encouraged to report this behavior to a staff member or school administrator. Staff should report bullying to the building principal.
Acts of reprisal or retaliation against any person who reports an incident of bullying are prohibited. Any student who is determined to have falsely accused another of bulling shall be subject to disciplinary consequences.
Responding to Bullying
In determining the appropriate response to students who engage in bullying behavior, school administrators should consider the ages and maturity of the students involved, the type of behaviors, the frequency and/or pattern of behaviors, the context in which the incident occurred, and other relevant circumstances. Consequences may range from positive behavioral interventions up to and including suspension, expulsion, and/or reports to law enforcement officials.
Dissemination of Policy
Notice of what constitutes bullying, the Board’s prohibition against bullying, and the consequences for students who bully shall be communicated to students and parents through the Student Code of Conduct and Student Handbook.
20-A M.R.S.A. § 1001(15)(H)
P.L. 2005, ch. 307 § 4-5
AC - Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity
ACAA - Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students
ACAD - Hazing
ADF - School District Commitment to Learning Results
JI - Student Rights and Responsibilities
JICC - Student Conduct on Buses
JICIA - Weapons, Violence and School Safety
JK - Student Discipline
JKD - Suspension of Students
JKE - Expulsion of Students
Student Code of Conduct
MSMA sample policies and other resource materials do not necessarily reflect official Association policy. They are not intended for verbatim replication. Sample policies should be used as a starting point for a board’s policy development on specific topics. Rarely does one board’s policy serve exactly to address the concerns and needs of all other school units.
MSMA recommends a careful analysis of the need and purpose of any policy and a thorough consideration of the application and suitability to the individual school system.
MSMA sample policies and other resource materials may not be considered as legal advice and are not intended as a substitute for the advice of a board’s own legal counsel.